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Preparing for Kindergarten

Every year, the demands for kindergarten readiness increase. Parents scramble to ensure that their children are reading and calculating simple algebra problems. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that causes us to believe our children (even our kindergartners) must graduate at the top of their classes, that they must outperform their peers in order to succeed, and that we must push them to their ultimate capabilities.

With the demands and expectations that have been placed on our young children today, it is no wonder that we lose site of the most important elements of kindergarten readiness. Preparing our children for kindergarten means that we have anticipated how they will transition to a new school. We have created a foundation of love for learning and know that they will easily embrace the curiosities and questions that kindergarten will pose to them. We have helped our children on their journey to becoming responsible members of the community. They know how to share, how to take turns, and how to show compassion for other people.

When we set aside the pressure of accomplishing certain academic tasks before kindergarten even begins, we can take the necessary steps to ensure that their transition to kindergarten is a smooth one.

It is common for our five or six year olds to feel reluctant, nervous, or sad about starting kindergarten. That’s ok. That’s normal. We, however, can help make that transition a bit easier.

Summer Play Dates
Before school even begins, introduce your child to some of his classmates. Does your school offer a kindergarten summer play date? At our elementary school, the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) hosts a get together a couple of weeks before school starts. It makes such a difference for our children to see faces they recognize when they walk in on that first day. It’s also a great opportunity for you to get to know some of the other parents. This year, our first day of kindergarten was tear-free. We had a few reluctant children at the play date, but on the first day of school – they were raring to go. If your school does not have a Summer Play Date, I’d recommend approaching the PTO and suggesting one!

Tour the school
Many of us have the opportunity to tour the school before we sign our child up, but we frequently attend those tours without our children. Let your child have a chance to see the space before school starts. When she sees the brightly decorated bulletin boards, the chairs that are just her size, and the smiling teacher – she will have something to look forward to. I have one child who couldn’t go to another child’s house or to a birthday party venue without seeing the environment first. When I finally figured that out – I realized he was a visual person and seeing a space before entering it made him feel more comfortable and at ease.

Dump and go
It sounds harsh, but this is the best way to deal with a reluctant child. The teachers have all seen it before, and if the school needs you – they’ll call you (like when my third grader wouldn’t get out from under the desk during his first year at our elementary school). The longer you stay, the longer your child can cling and the higher his anxiety will rise. You are leaving your child in good hands!

Pack her favorite lunch
Seeing her favorite foods will bring an element of comfort. Slide in a little note with a smiley face and a special treat for dessert too. Even if she’s too nervous to eat (she’ll eat it after school), she’ll know you are thinking of her.

Many of our kindergartners approach this new experience tentatively and eagerly. It can be overwhelming to manage that bundle of feelings. The simple steps we take to help our little learners will have a large impact on their future success in school.

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